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The Best Mountain Bike Tires

The author has the math ability of a 6 year old  but with 11 tires in the 2016 Enduro Mountain Bike Tire test  there were lots and lots of different combinations to be tried.  Someone told us it was 55.  We'll take their word for it and concentrate on the riding.
By Sean Cronin ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday
What is the ideal tire combination for aggressive trail/enduro type mountain biking? We put 11 different tires through a series of side-by-side tests on various soil types and terrain. Running through a gauntlet of tests, we rated each contender on cornering, pedal traction, braking traction, rolling resistance, longevity, and ease of installation. All of our award winners turned out to be sets of tires that came from the same manufacturer; although we feel these make great combinations, we encourage you to read each review to better understand the specific pros and cons of every individual tire. Every rider is different. Every trail is different. Keep reading to check out the full review below to see how each combo performed.

Best Overall Front Tire


Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO


Editors' Choice Award

$53.99
at Amazon
See It

There's something about seeing the Maxxis printed in bright yellow (on the sidewall of a tire) that makes an entire bike look higher quality. The easiest and most likely cheapest way to get the most performance from your bike is by putting a quality tire on it; the Maxxis Minion DHF would be our recommendation the majority of the time. From seasoned enduro pro bros, to those just looking for a more aggressive tire for their enduro or trail bike, the Minion is a workhorse. We might even go as far as saying that this tire has potential to take an intermediate rider to the next level. This tire is happiest when leaned into a turn aggressively. Timid riders may be hesitant, but we guarantee once they experience the sensation of this tire locking into a turn for the first time, they'll be scouring YouTube for "proper cornering technique" clips. A sturdy casing and great mix of tread compounds provided great sidewall support and exceptional grip at pressures as low as 20 psi, depending on terrain. A nice square profile, squared off edges, side knobs, and sidewalls all contribute to the overall quality of this award winner. After more than 120 miles on all sorts of terrain, the tread still looks fresh. The DHF might feel a bit overkill on super buff and hardpack dirt, but that's not the arena this beast was designed to fight in.

Best Overall Rear Tire


Maxxis Aggressor 2.3 EXO


Editors' Choice Award

$62 List
List Price
See It

As a pretty recent addition to an already stellar lineup of mountain bike tires from Maxxis, we were first introduced to the Maxxis Aggressor when it came spec'd on the Yeti SB5.5C 2016 29er, a bike we tested for our recent enduro bike review. Richie Rude has been winning races on this tire in the Enduro World Series, so chances are this mountain bike tire can handle whatever you can throw at it. If you've ever seen footage of Rude ride, he's built like a linebacker and can beat a trail into submission - like he just caught it trying to steal an old woman's purse. The versatile tread pattern used for this mountain bike tire spreads its appeal beyond enduro riding; we wouldn't hesitate to put this tire on our trail bikes or even XC bikes. With respect to the DHF above, the tread pattern was lower profile. Ramping was omitted from the blocks and the sharp front edges met the ground with authority, providing plenty of bite, despite being so slight. Our EXO casing test tire weighed in at 892 grams and if you want even more peace of mind, it's available in Maxxis's Double Down casing option as well. We felt this tire was the best balance of rolling resistance, grip, and traction offered in the entire test and we expect to see a lot more of these tires out on the trail very soon.

Best Bang for the Buck for Your Front Tire


Specialized Butcher Grid


Best Buy Award

$60 List
List Price
See It

We couldn't help but draw comparisons between the Specialized Butcher Grid and the Editors' Choice Maxxis Minion DHF. They both employed a similar tread pattern and share ride characteristics. While the cornering ability of the Minion barely edged out the Butcher, the Butcher was no slouch. The soft 42A tread compound felt planted on loose ground and rock faces alike and simply did not slip. Compared to the harder rubber found on the Control version of these tires that had us feeling like a fawn wearing ice skates, the performance of the Grid tire was vastly superior. Sixty dollars, you say? Please, just take our money. Selecting this mountain bike tire as our Best Buy was a no-brainer.

Best Bang for the Buck for Your Rear Tire


Specialized Slaughter Grid


Best Buy Award

$60 List
List Price
See It

By using the same side knob profile as the Butcher Grid and paring down the center tread, the Specialized Slaughter Grid is a fast rolling tire that excels in turns. The rubber is a harder 60A in the center, but softer 50A for the side knobs; while it's not quite as soft as the Butcher above, the additional firmness of the Slaughter Grid keeps rolling resistance down and sacrifices little in traction. The semi-slick design might not be the preferred tread for lots and lots of loose climbing, but it'll get the job done. We doubt you'll be thinking about the climb when you're waiting for your buddies to catch up at the bottom of the hill.

Top Pick Award for Tokyo Drifting-Front


Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35 TrailStar EVO


Top Pick Award

$61.04
at Amazon
See It

For those that prefer a rounder tire profile, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf rolls from center to edge with the greatest of ease. With knobs evenly spread across the width of the tire, leaning into turns feels smooth and predictable. The knobs increase in height, starting at 3mm in the center, increasing to 4mm for the intermediate or transitional knobs, and topping out at 6mm on the side knobs. In moist, rain-packed dirt, berms feel like warm toast, allowing these buttery smooth tires to smear evenly across the apex. One of our testers was particularly enamored by this mountain bike and set of tires, stating how it reminded him of his motocross days. Watching him pack heat into loose corners and counter-steering through them was pretty impressive to those of us that still struggle with the concept of turning our bars away from a slide. The triple rubber Trailstar compound adds a touch of durability to this notoriously fast wearing tire. It didn't feel like the fastest rolling tire with squared-edged, unramped blocks, though traction and braking power likely benefit from this design.

Top Pick Award for Slicing and Dicing Corners-Rear


Schwalbe Rock Razor 2.35 PaceStar EVO


Top Pick Award

$70.99
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

The Schwalbe Rock Razor was the most dramatic example (in our test) of the semi-slick tire designs, which are storming the enduro scene. At first glance, the small square blocks forming the center tread look like something you might see on a freestyle bike in the bike park. Bring it in a little closer though and you'll notice the DH style side knobs. There's no guessing when you roll from the center tread onto the huge side knobs. Laid out in a straight line, at the same angle, and using the same knob design throughout, the distinction between center tread and side tread is unmistakable. Once the proper lean angle is achieved, the side knobs engage and you're ready to enjoy the G-forces for the remainder of the turn. Less aggressive riders are likely to think this is a terrible tire if they're too hesitant to lean the bike into corners. Remaining on the center tread or only partly engaging the side knobs will send you sliding through turns. Even more troublesome is the lack of braking power provided by the minimal tread. These tires are purpose built for speed. Grabbing a handful of brake in an emergency is worth a shot, but a futile effort as you're simply too late by this point. You're probably going to want something big for a front tire to give you a better chance at stopping on command.

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
82
Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO $78
Editors' Choice Award
Step up your game and start leaving your friends in the dust.
79
Maxxis Aggressor 2.3 EXO $62
Editors' Choice Award
Where has this tire been our whole lives?
77
Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35 TrailStar EVO $92
Top Pick Award
Just as neutral and expensive as Switzerland, this unique tire drifts corners like a rally car.
76
Specialized Slaughter Grid $60
Best Buy Award
A high-performance, low cost semi-slick tire designed for rear use.
75
Schwalbe Rock Razor 2.35 PaceStar EVO $92
Top Pick Award
You've accepted that most things that make you faster have an associated cost. Throw down your cash and the competition.
75
WTB Vigilante 2.3 Fast Rolling/Tough $77
A good aggressive tire with a simple, effective design that is suitable for beginners and experts alike.
74
Specialized Butcher Grid $60
Best Buy Award
Soft, tacky rubber, big side knobs, and stout sidewalls in an affordable package. Why look anywhere else?
72
WTB Trail Boss TCS Tough/Fast Rolling 2.25 $80
Why make sacrifices when you can have it all with this versatile tire?
70
Continental Mountain King 2.4 Protection $65
If you're not afraid to drop into turns hard and low, this aggressive tire will let you pull some serious G forces.
68
Michelin Wild Grip'r2 Advanced 2.35 $70
This probably won't be your everyday tire, but when things get dry and loose, you'll be glad to have them in the stable. Just get the Advanced Reinforced version if you want them to last.
65
Continental Trail King 2.2 Protection $70
A beast of a climber and a near perfect tire for lightweight or less aggressive riders. Hard chargers beware.

Analysis and Test Results


When you buy a complete bike, tires are spec'd from one manufacturer. Otherwise, riders are free to mix and match tires from different manufacturers when dialing in their bike. Tires are sold individually, so unless you're devoted to a particular brand for some reason, there are a ton of choices available. There's much to be considered when choosing a new set of tires for your bike. Many seasoned mountain bikers have a stack of tires to draw from depending on the terrain, soil type, and weather they plan to encounter on any given day. Like well-socialized dogs at a summer BBQ, lots of different tires can play well with one another. So feel free to put a Schwalbe in front and a Specialized on the back. We lose a little bit of freedom everyday so don't put limitations on your tires choice.

Tires that rail in Moab might flail in Whistler. Spring mud soon transitions to summer sand. As the days grow shorter, wet leaves scatter the singletrack and before long a dusting of snow graces the trails. Living in the mountains of Lake Tahoe, most of us can hardly manage to swap out the tires on our car before the first snowstorm hits as we find ourselves fishtailing up the pass in search of fresh tracks. Same goes for the warmer months, when a kind police officer is often the one to remind us that studded snow tires are no longer necessary on a car with a inflatable paddle board on the roof.

With that in mind, we set out to review the single best tire combination for enduro mountain biking. Aside from being "so hot right now," like Owen Wilson's character Hansel in Zoolander, enduro typifies the type of riding a huge majority of riders engage in, regardless of whether or not they actually race the format. Lots of people can appreciate the cardiovascular benefits of chugging uphill, but actual enjoyment is limited to far fewer masochists. The only real benefit of smashing uphill during an enduro race is to limit the overall time you spend on-course waiting in the cue for your chance to rocket downhill. Basically, if you can make it uphill in a timeframe that won't require a bike light, enduro is cool with that.

Whenever you make it to the top, this is where the business starts. Riders are released downhill, separated by a minute or so. Everything about this makes you want to ride faster. Faster than you probably ride normally; trying to catch the person in front of you and trying not to be caught from behind. If dust still hangs in the air, you're doing good. Push harder! The demands of enduro riding have created a category of gear all its own. Enduro specific equipment seeks to maximize efficiency on the way up AND down. From an engineering standpoint, it's pretty challenging. In the past, downhill bikes were made more capable by adding metal or rubber to make the bike stronger. Nobody really cared too much about weight. These bikes weren't made to pedal efficiently. Basically, a dirt bike without a motor was the result. On the flip side, cross-country bikes we're being slimmed down, trading chromoly for carbon with weights creeping into road bike numbers. The bikes that just co-won our enduro bike review are excellent examples of what this relativly new enduro category strives to achieve. Every bike featured in that review is one riders would be comfortable riding uphill for miles on end. They can handle all-day mountain epics of 50 miles no problem.

These bikes are also at home charging down rocky ski resort descents, flicking through corners, and tail-whipping over jumps. Five years ago, riders would have needed two different bikes to do these things. Today, one bike can offer very little compromise. Now that you're an expert in all things enduro, you're going to need some tires that share the same split-personality character traits of the bike you're riding. Mountain bike tires that are light and grippy enough to get you to the top of the hill, but strong and fast enough to possibly turn that entry-fee into more than just a hundred dollar T-shirt.

Types of Enduro Mountain Bike Tires


Front Tires
The front tire is responsible for cornering and needs to respond appropriately to the forces translated to it in order to remain on your intended line. A wider front tire will also help you stay on course as more of the tire is in contact with obstacles and will deflect less than a narrower tire. Front tires often feature directional knobs to improve rolling resistance. A front tire does not suffer as much drag and therefore it is common to see riders elect a big knobby tire up front and a smoother looking tire for the rear. In fact, many riders simply run worn out front tires as rear tires. We feel differences in tread pattern and knob spacing make a rear specific tire a better bet, but alas, it's not the worst option and easier on the wallet. You'll wear through a rear tire faster though, so the timing is kinda funky for this approach.

The best of the front tires; top to bottom - Specialized Butcher (Best Buy)  Maxxis Minion DHF (Editors' Choice)  Schwalbe Hans Dampf (Top Pick).
The best of the front tires; top to bottom - Specialized Butcher (Best Buy), Maxxis Minion DHF (Editors' Choice), Schwalbe Hans Dampf (Top Pick).

Rear Tires
A rear tire typically has horizontal knobs running across the tire. Much like the track on a snowmobile, these knobs provide traction and prevent the rear wheel from spinning under large pedaling forces such as when climbing a loose hill.

The Aggressor (middle) offers a bit more center tread than our other award-winning rear tires  the Schwalbe Rock Razor (left) and Specialized Slaughter (right). Rolling resistance might be slightly higher  but braking and pedal traction are superior.
The Aggressor (middle) offers a bit more center tread than our other award-winning rear tires, the Schwalbe Rock Razor (left) and Specialized Slaughter (right). Rolling resistance might be slightly higher, but braking and pedal traction are superior.

Semi-slicks
Enduro racing has helped drive innovation in all aspect of bike manufacturing. The nature of the race format requires a bike light enough to be ridden uphill for long periods of time, but strong enough to remian intact on the gnarliest descents. Enduro bikes are not your typical heavy downhill bikes with huge beefy tires. Semi-slick tires have a pared down center tread so they have little holding them back to tear down race courses at warp speeds. The small center tread is framed in by larger side knobs to maintain strong cornering performance.

Criteria for Evaluation


Tire Size
Pretty much everything you need to know is printed right there on the sidewall.  Look here first when buying a tire.
Pretty much everything you need to know is printed right there on the sidewall. Look here first when buying a tire.

All the tires we tested were 27.5 inch tires. Why? Well, that's the size wheel our testers run on their personal bikes. We were focused solely on tire performance and using a bike we were intimately familiar with already helped to level the playing field. Most of the tires in this test are also available in 29-inch and 26-inch versions. It's probably fair to say that the number of 26-inch bikes toeing the line at enduro races will fall off rapidly with each passing year. At least for now, you can still find most of these tires if you run the smaller hoops.

Tire Width
The casing on the Trail King had a bit of a beer belly.  This tire is a 2.2 according to the sidewall measurement but measured much larger as the casing is wider than the tread.
The casing on the Trail King had a bit of a beer belly. This tire is a 2.2 according to the sidewall measurement but measured much larger as the casing is wider than the tread.
We selected tires in the 2.25 inch to 2.4 inch width range. Although there seems to be a trend towards wider and wider tires every day, we felt that this range still represents widths the vast majority of riders are choosing. We mounted tires to 30-mm internal diameter Race Face Arc 30 rims. Again, we felt this choice to be very representative of current wheel selection among the enduro crowd, without falling into the overly girthy end of the spectrum.

Sidewall Protection
Each manufacturer has their own proprietary name for how they choose to armor up a tire. Whether it be EXO (Maxxis) or ProTection (Continental) having a jagged rock slice open your tire spewing sealant everywhere like a busted ravioli is a sure way to a DNF. Only one tire in our test, the Michelin Wild Grip'r Advanced, didn't contain sidewall protection. With this selection, we were more intrigued by the low weight and comparatively large knobs and wanted to see if it could hold up to the rest of the bunch. Read our full review to find out. In general though, we recommend you treat your tires like a Tinder date and always opt for that extra layer of protection before taking the plunge.

Using Protection is highly effective against STDs (Sudden Trail Debris) and other health hazards.
Using Protection is highly effective against STDs (Sudden Trail Debris) and other health hazards.


Cornering


Front Tire
Our Editors' Choice and Top Pick Award winners are two very different feeling tires. Depending on your preference, you may feel our ratings should be flip-flopped. The Top Pick Schwalbe Hans Dampf had a very even tread pattern. There were no distinct channels running longitudinally down the tire. Instead, a consistent tread pattern fills in all the spaces and gaps on the base. This creates a very even feel when the bike is tipped on edge. From center tread to side knobs, the tire rolls into corners smoothly. A rounded profile creates a drifty feel around loose corners. Instead of locking in, traction breaks slowly and evenly. It's a predictable feel once you've got the hang of it, but certainly different than what you get from the Minion.

By comparison, our Editors' Choice Maxxis Minion DHF features a more pronounced transitional zone that is all but absent on the Hans Dampf. Going from the center tread onto the side knobs, the rider may notice a "dead" zone about halfway through the lean. The feeling results from passing over the channel between the tread knobs on the crown of the tire on the way to the big side knobs. More aggressive riders may not be as affected by this as novices. An aggressive rider will pass through the transitional zone very quickly when cornering, angling and leaning the bike hard into the corner. This aggressive riding style allows the large side knobs to dig into the dirt and hold a hard line through corners. Novice or less aggressive riders are apt to hold the bike more upright through turns. In such a case, the tire is never fully engaged and the rider may feel that the tire is drifting or washing out in turns.

Sandy corners are often armored with pavers  presenting an interesting challenge. Riders might opt for a big knobby tire to optimize performance in loose ground; in turn  it may feel a bit tipsy on the hard pavers.
Sandy corners are often armored with pavers, presenting an interesting challenge. Riders might opt for a big knobby tire to optimize performance in loose ground; in turn, it may feel a bit tipsy on the hard pavers.

Whichever style you prefer, we believe these two tires represent the best in their class. For those embracing the drift, another selection could include the Continental Trail King. We liked the performance of this tire but had issues with its casing, having it warp out of shape on more than one occasion. We suspect lighter, less aggressive riders would be less likely to push this tire hard enough to deform it. We also felt the balloonish casing didn't allow us to achieve the lean angles of the Schwalbe tire as the sidewall width exceeded the width of the tread. This also made the tire more subject to damage when pushed through tight spaces.

Those preferring a more "locked in" feel might also be well suited grabbing a Specialized Butcher off the shelf. At a significantly lower price, this tire performed remarkably similar to the Minion. The WTB Vigilante is also a good choice but we found its large side knobs a bit squirmy on firmer ground. If looser, soft terrain is where you spend your time, it may be worth a look.

The Butcher Grid was the biggest surprise of the test. We approached the tire with skepticism but became instant fans. A great tire at an even better price.
The Butcher Grid was the biggest surprise of the test. We approached the tire with skepticism but became instant fans. A great tire at an even better price.

Rear Tire
If forced to pick one tire to ride for an entire year, knowing we'd be all over the map riding our home trails and travelling around in search of new adventures, we would choose the Editors' Choice Maxxis Aggressor hands down. We felt this tire provided the best combination of traction and rolling speed in the greatest number of conditions. While other tires may have handled specific conditions better, say the Michelin Wild Grip'r, in extremely sandy and loose terrain, the Aggressor rarely if ever left us out in the cold. The moderately low-profile center tread allowed for exceptional pedaling efficiency and low rolling resistance, all the while offering adequate bite for climbing and braking traction. The side knobs were stout enough to rail corners but no so burly that they resisted flicking the bike's rear end into corners and breaking traction when needed.

This ride featured sandy turns down low  fresh snow up high  and tacky hero-dirt in the middle. The Aggressor is an all-conditions tire.
This ride featured sandy turns down low, fresh snow up high, and tacky hero-dirt in the middle. The Aggressor is an all-conditions tire.

For riders with deep pockets who are only concerned with speed and carving up berms, look no further than the Schwalbe Rock Razor. The low-profile crown tread is remniscent of a Kenda Small Block 8 with consistently spaced small knobs. Sharp, deep side knobs frame the center tread and once the tire is leaned into a turn, it locks in like a giant slalom ski.

The Top Pick Award winning Schwalbe Rock Razor (L) and Hans Dampf (R).
The Top Pick Award winning Schwalbe Rock Razor (L) and Hans Dampf (R).

Pedal Traction


Front Tire
The Specialized Butcher is a high performance tire at a low cost.
The Specialized Butcher is a high performance tire at a low cost.
Pedaling forces are applied through the rear tire while the front tire is pushed along, guiding the bike along its journey. In essence, what we describe here are the behaviors of the various front tires as they navigate terrain. Our Editors' Choice Maxxis Minion DHF was our favorite tire for all-conditions riding. The majority of our testing took place over a very dry California summer. Trails were mostly loose, blown out and rocky. The Maxx Terra compound on the Minion was an excellent balance of grip, rolling resistance, and longevity. The side knobs molded to rock faces just as well as they clawed for traction in the rubble.

Other aggressively knobbed tires like the Michelin Wild Grip'r and the WTB Vigilante were great performers as well in loose terrain but were a bit more unnerving when things firmed up. The tall and soft side knobs of the Wild Grip'r offered little support on rock and eroded our confidence through technical rock gardens. It was however, a fan favorite in extremely sandy corners that we found in abundance at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park.

There are better choices than the Minion even if your ride firm ground almost exclusively due to the fact that the knobs are a touch aggressive and the tire feels a bit draggy on hard ground. The Hans Dampf and Trail King performed better with smaller knob that didn't give the rider a feeling of riding high of the ground. The even tread pattern of those tires also feels more predictable on firm ground as the transition across the tread is smooth the whole way through.

Rear Tire
Fast  punchy climbing out of the saddle can make the rear wheel spin  especially with tires like the Specialized Slaughter (that have a smaller center tread).
Fast, punchy climbing out of the saddle can make the rear wheel spin, especially with tires like the Specialized Slaughter (that have a smaller center tread).
You'll find huge variance in traction, depending on the type of terrain you ride and what tire you select. If the mission of the day is to climb up a ridiculously loose fire road with golf ball sized rocks loosely embedded in the surface and soil that is so loose you're leaving a wake in the sand behind you, something knobby like the Wild Grip'r will "get 'er done." The semi-slick designs of the Schwalbe Rock Razor, WTB Trail Boss, and Specialized Slaughter simply don't have the aggressive knobs to dig for traction where there is none.

Out of the saddle climbing in this type of terrain on those tires will send your knees smashing into the stem or your teeth kissing the handlebars. Wet conditions can easily pack the center tread with mud on semi-slicks and leave you spinning a smooth wheel of slime. Of these designs though, the more spaced tread of the WTB Trail Boss shed debris with a bit more ease. But these tires are meant for going down so a concession will certainly be felt if you're trying to maximize performance on the up.

Just keep in mind we're talking about performance in enduro racing. With that being said, we'd reach for the Maxxis Aggressor day in and day out as our go to tire. With sufficient tread to get you up and down, it may not be loam-loving skin you want on your trip to Washington or BC but pretty much anywhere else, be it Jackson Hole, Colorado, Utah or the east coast, this tire makes a solid travel companion.

The Best Buy Award winning combination went to the Specialized Slaughter Grid (top) and Butcher Grid (bottom).
The Best Buy Award winning combination went to the Specialized Slaughter Grid (top) and Butcher Grid (bottom).

Braking Traction


"Get off your brakes, ya wuss!" That's what you'll hear being shouted from behind by our lead tester should you decide to drop in ahead of him on the downhill. He'll be on your rear tire in a nanosecond with constant verbal "encouragement" reminding you to give your index fingers a break while your legs take over. With winners and losers separated by fractions of a second, braking doesn't happen much until passing beneath the arch in the finish corral. As much as racing requires a go-for-broke approach, occasionally you simply need to dump some speed to save your neck.

Front Tire
Knobbier tires like the Wild Grip'r and Continental Mountain King feature blunt back edges on their knobs that work hard to dig into the ground when the brakes are applied. The Michelin could feel a little squirrelly during hard braking on rock slabs though as the knobs felt too soft and unsupported. We particularly liked the 2-knob, alternating paddle tread running down the center of the WTB Vigilante. The simple, no nonsense tread design used square, horizontally siped knobs that splay to increase friction and surface area. When things get a little damp, the somewhat open tread design of the tires above sheds mud quite well to ensure a clean braking surface. The Maxxis Minion used deeper, wider slits on the center that could hardly be classified as sipes. Whatever you choose to call them, they do a good job at slowing the tire down without skipping or glancing off objects.

Rear Tire
Almost by design, the semi-slick tires in this test are engineered to brake poorly. In the dry and loose conditions common to summer enduro racing, aside form beefier side knobs, there's not much tread to grab dirt and slow the descent of these tires as they blaze down a mountainside race course. The focus instead is to enhance forward progress, not impede it. So naturally, the pared-down center treads of the Trail Boss, Slaughter, and Rock Razor are about as effective as the emergency brake on your car.

Of the three tires above, the Trail Boss and Slaughter seem to brake a hair better than the Rock razor, but the width of a hair might be the only real difference in the distance it takes to come to a complete stop. Granted, the stopping power of these tires is greatly enhanced on firm ground where the low tread height allows a large contact patch with the ground.

It didn't take much to lock up the rear wheel when things got wet and snowy.
It didn't take much to lock up the rear wheel when things got wet and snowy.

If braking power is high on your list of priorities, running some of the tires we primarily tested as front tires on the rear wheel is a great option as well. A matched pair of the Specialized Butchers, Schwalbe Hans Dampfs, or either of the Continentals are combinations we see out on the trails all the time. If you gotten this far int he review and haven't run out to buy one yet, you could always meet braking power and fast-rolling in the middle and slap a Maxxis Aggressor on your whip and be done with it.

Rolling Resistance


Front Tire
The winner here is not the Wild Grip'r in case you were curious. The large and soft 55A knobs produce quite a buzz as they turn over. Leaned on edge, especially on firm ground or pavement, you can practically feel each individual knob. The Continental Mountain King wasn't far behind in terms of making us feel like we had to put a little more effort behind our pedal strokes. Despite the very soft 42A tread on the Specialized Butcher, the angled knobs keep this tire from feeling exceptionally draggy. The same can be said for the the Maxxis Minion DHF.

Who can focus on rolling resistance with a view like that?
Who can focus on rolling resistance with a view like that?

Rear Tire
The semi-slicks in this test garnered top honors in rolling resistance, or lack thereof. For highly skilled enduro racers that can push the pace while maintaining some semblance of control, these tires are a fast option. Our favorite among the bunch was the Rock Razor with it's alternating 4,3 low-profile center tread framed by large aggressive side knobs. This tire scoots along at a furious pace and rails corners like a carving knife. The Trail King was a nice balance with knobs large enough to give good traction for pedaling and braking but not so high-profile to keep you glancing down wondering if you've got a flat. Again, Aggressor.

Longevity


We had the most issues with Continental tires in this test. The tread of our initial Trail King was about as rugged as filo dough, flaking off pieces of rubber barely double-digit miles into its lifespan. On top of that, one of our testers deformed the sidewall twice. Schwalbe tires have a reputation for wearing out quickly and although we were impressed with the longer wearing PaceStar rubber compound, there's just not much tread to begin with on this tire, save for the side knobs.

Unless you're a Benjamin' burnin' baller of a biker, you might want to keep the Rock Razor as a race day tire. For ballers on a budget, the Specialized offerings are much more affordable. You can expect about equal wear time on these tires because the tread is a super soft 42A rubber. We felt the casing to be a little sturdier than the Schwalbe tires as well. With the Rock Razor, we fiddled with tire pressures in an attempt to provide adequate protection to our rims without feeling the sidewall fold underneath us. The Specialized tires were more set and forget, pump and play.

Installation


Swapping out tires in the parking lot at Mammoth.  Compare  contrast  repeat.
Swapping out tires in the parking lot at Mammoth. Compare, contrast, repeat.

We didn't need a shop air compressor to inflate any one of these tires. We used our beloved Joe Blow Booster floor pump to successfully set the bead on the whole lot. It proved universally helpful to ensure the tires were warm before attempting installation. Continental tires had an odd, plastic feel to them that was especially evident when cold. The foldable bead didn't quite take on the perfectly round shape once unpackaged like the rest of the tires and we had to let each tire heat up in the sun and settle before we could get it installed as air would escape through the creased bead.

Out on the trail, we had an especially difficult time placing the Specialized Slaughter onto the rim with a tube. Perhaps, we had slightly too much pressure in the tube but all the tire levers in the world weren't helping. The Specialized tires were the tightest fit of the test as each required the use of tools on the initial installation, while the WTB Vigilante and WTB Trail Boss each scored a 9 out of 10 in terms of installation. Following closely behind were the Editors' Choice winners, the Maxxis Minion and Maxxis Aggressor, along with the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Schwalbe Rock Razor, and Michelin Wild Grip'r2, each scoring an 8 out of 10.

Conclusion


The author has the math ability of a 6 year old  but with 11 tires in the 2016 Enduro Mountain Bike Tire test  there were lots and lots of different combinations to be tried.  Someone told us it was 55.  We'll take their word for it and concentrate on the riding.
The author has the math ability of a 6 year old, but with 11 tires in the 2016 Enduro Mountain Bike Tire test, there were lots and lots of different combinations to be tried. Someone told us it was 55. We'll take their word for it and concentrate on the riding.

We hope we were able to help you choose an awesome combination of a front and rear tire to complete your snazzy rolling race machine. If you're still in awe about the many choices we've reviewed, head over to our buying advice. Our hope is that we'll be able to help you clear up any questions that you might have.

Sean Cronin
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